University of Tasmania
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The social bases of environmentalism in Australia

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posted on 2023-05-27, 14:39 authored by Bruce TranterBruce Tranter
The nature of support for environmentalism - conceptualised here as attitudes and behaviour supportive of ecological prudence and the green movement - has grown to become a major issue of contention among contemporary social scientists. Some researchers suggest that support for environmentalism stems from a 'new' or 'new middle' class, post World War II generation and, in particular, from among highly educated and left leaning urban dwellers. Others maintain that social location has diminishing utility for explaining social phenomena, and claim instead that new value orientations are the key to understanding support for environmental movements and concerns. This research aims at reviewing and evaluating these claims. Part I reviews the theoretical arguments underlying the diverse class, generation and social status accounts of environmentalism. Critical evaluation of these accounts forms a springboard for empirical analysis. Part II examines empirically the social bases of environmentalism in Australia using nationally representative survey data. The impact of (new) class, status group, generation/cohort, and other aspects of social location, as well as 'postmaterial' values on environmental concerns and activism is assessed using multivariate techniques. Particular attention is paid to the hypothesis that support for environmentalism in Australia comes from certain status categories of people sharing similar lifestyles. In general, there is a weak relationship between social location and environmental commitment and activism, although the relative explanatory value of social location varies according to the aspect of environmentalism under consideration. Age, new class location, postmaterialist value orientations and political partisanship are the best predictors of environmental concerns and activism, while lifestyle also has an impact upon environmental group support. While 'social base' effects are discernible, they have limited utility for explaining environmental new politics. Like other aspects of the new politics, environmental concerns and activism in Australia are detached from the 'old' social bases of class, generation and status. Green supporters and sympathisers in Australia do not form clearly circumscribed social groupings, and they do not seem to be motivated by the traditional group interests that propelled 'old' politics. The social constituencies of environmentalism appear to be vague and fluid thus posing a major challenge to the established sociological approaches to environmentalism.


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Copyright 1996 the author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Includes bibliographical references. Thesis (PhD)--University of Tasmania, 1996

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